Odd-year elections don't get the respect they deserve


Election Day is officially behind us, and absent any real close races followed by recounts, the serious contests are over. Even if the winners and losers are all but certain, these annual democratic events continue to be flawed and in need of correction. How flawed? Just take a serious look at the overall process, and you’ll come to the same conclusions.

Every one of my 13 contests for the State Assembly occurred in even years. In even years we elect either federal or state officials. In odd years we elect mostly local officials, and the difference in voter turnout is dramatic. In even-year elections, on average, anywhere from 55 to 68 percent of voters turn out. In odd years, like this one, it’s a struggle to get 36 percent to the polls.

It’s hard to figure out why more voters go the polls in even years than odd, but for some reason, they only get energized when there are federal or state candidates on the ballot. In New York City, where there’s an abundance of Democrats, it doesn’t matter what year the election occurs; Democrats tend to be favored (though they were unable to mount much of a challenge to either Rudy Guliani or Michael Bloomberg).

The suburbs are a different story. Even though Democrats now outnumber Republicans in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, because turnout is light in odd years, the contests are decided by independent voters. In both of these suburban counties, people who consider themselves independents — a growing number — can tip the election away from the registered majority.

Somehow, the imbalance in voter participation isn’t decided by how much a candidate spends. The race between Tom Suozzi and County Executive Ed Mangano cost close to $4 million, so money didn’t energize the voters. It takes something dramatic to increase the number of people who vote, but that event hasn’t happened yet.

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